Background: The purpose of this study was to assess public beliefs and knowledge about risk and protective factors for Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Methods: A brief survey module was added to the Health and Retirement Study, a longstanding national panel study of the U.S. population over the age of 50.
Results: Respondents were 1641 adults (mean age=64.4 years, 53.6% female, 81.7% White). Most (60.1%) indicated interest in learning their AD risk, with 29.4% expressing active worry. Many failed to recognize that medications to prevent AD are not available (39.1%) or that having an affected first-degree relative is associated with increased disease risk (32%). Many respondents believed that various actions (e.g., mental activity, eating a healthy diet) would be effective in reducing AD risk.
Conclusion: Older and middle-aged adults are interested in their AD risk status and believe that steps can be taken to reduce disease risk. Tailored education efforts are needed to address potential misconceptions about risk and protective factors.
Keywords: Attitudes and beliefs; Health education; Illness perceptions; National survey; Public understanding.
Copyright © 2014 The Alzheimer's Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.